PHOENIX — Chandler native Joe Jackson is finally realizing a dream – playing for Team USA in the upcoming Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
“It was super emotional when they made the selection team announcement. Yea, that was awesome,” Jackson said.
The 31-year-old is a lifelong athlete whose sport is now wheelchair rugby. As a teen, it was all about football and it was on the field where his life journey changed.
“I was at Hamilton High School, we were scrimmaging for semi-final state playoff game football. I ran over to help on a gang tackle," Jackson explained. "I thought it was a stinger, I was out of breath with sharp pain going down.”
It wasn’t just a stinger; the athlete was paralyzed from the waist down and broke his C-6 vertebrae. He said he always pushed himself to be better – to do more – and he wasn’t going to let this injury change that
“It was never a 'why me' thing. Let’s just get better at what I have and see how far it takes me,” said Jackson.
Jackson was determined but unsure of where life would take him... Until he watched "Murder Ball." The film was a documentary focusing on the rivalry between the Canadian and USA wheelchair rugby teams.
“I was like okay I didn’t know this sport existed when I was in patient rehab," he proclaimed. "So I was like, okay I got hurt playing football, whatever. I like contact, the adrenaline rush. I like team sports, so I’m like I’m gonna do this.”
14 years later and he’s ready to take the sport’s biggest stage.
“Kinda preparing myself for this moment so all that hard work finally paid off,” said Jackson.
Jackson and his teammates, five of which are from Arizona – aren’t just ready to do their best. He said they are ready to BE the best.
“We’re hoping to take home the gold, Jackson exclaimed. "We got this!”
Jackson and his team are heading to Tokyo on Aug. 17 and hope to return to Arizona with a medal in hand.
While one dream arrived, Jackson had another dream come to fruition. He started the Joe Jackson foundation where the organization's mission is to "Educate, Enable, Encourage, and Empower Individuals Living with Paralysis." This includes providing funds for wheelchairs which can cost $5K or more.
To help, head to http://www.joejacksonfoundation.org/.
And Gook luck to Jackson and the rest of Team USA as they compete in the Tokyo Paralympics!
12 Sports on YouTube
Watch more of the latest sports videos on the 12 News YouTube channel. Don’t forget to subscribe!